No joke. I think I have conditioned myself to fall asleep whenever I watch this film. Not because it’s bad or boring. Not at all. This just happens to be one of my “bedtime movies”. Whenever I want something to play on my television while I try to fall asleep, this is one of the films that I put on. And 9 times out of 10, I fall asleep as soon as Dick Van Dyke sings “Hush-A-Bye Mountain”. Watching the movie in order to write this post was no different, even though I watched the film at 2:00 in the afternoon. You try to stay awake while Dick Van Dyke sings a lullaby. I dare you.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a movie musical based on a book by Ian Flemming. That’s right. The movie musical about a magic flying car is based off a book written by Mr. James Bond, himself. Well, this film is far from the book. In fact, it was the director, Ken Hughes, and children’s author Roald Dahl who wrote this film. And, if you’re familiar with any of Roald Dahl’s other works, this becomes very clear. Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with the film, here’s a brief synopsis, courtesy of imdb.com: A down-on-his-luck inventor turns a broken-down Grand Prix car into a fancy vehicle for his children, and then they go off on a magical fantasy adventure to save their grandfather in a far-off land. Dick Van Dyke stars as the “down-on-his-luck” inventor, Caractacus Potts. We also have Sally Ann Howes playing the character of Truly Scrumptious, Lionel Jefferies as Grandpa Potts, Gert Frobe as The Baron Bomburst, Anna Quayle playing his wife, and Robert Helpmann playing the most terrifying character in all of film history, The Child Catcher.
All in all, this is an enjoyable film. It really aims to showcase the talent of its leads. That meaning, that there are some songs in this film that are solely serve the purpose of doing just that. For example, “Doll On A Music Box/ Truly Scrumptious” are there mainly to showcase the talent of both Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dyke. It doesn’t really serve a much bigger purpose. It doesn’t necessarily move the plot along. Sure, it’s used to convince Baron Bomburst that these dolls are actually dolls, but even that’s a loose justification for the song. I must say, one of my favorite songs (that I used to hate as a child, FYI) is “Chu-Chi Face”, solely because it is a love song of sorts where one is trying to actually kill the other. I think it’s just hilarious.
One of my favorite things about this film is that you do, at a certain point, forget that what you are watching is not actually happening, and I attribute that to the fabulous writing. The entire plot with the Baron and The Child Catcher is a story that Caractacus is telling Truly and his children. The whole thing is just a story. And, at the end of the film, you remember this, as the camera comes back to the car and the family on the beach. Although, the whole Caractacus and Truly ultimately getting married thing is a bit unsettling as they have maybe actually only have known each other for a day or so, and they did not, in fact, go on, what could have been, a life threatening mission to rescue Grandpa Potts and the children.
Okay. So, I’m tired. That may be why this entry isn’t flowing as nicely as the others. However, I was determined to publish something today and to keep up with my “Movie Musical Mondays”, as I do truly enjoy them. I apologize for the scatteredness of this post.
The one thing that I definitely want to address is the character that still, to this day, gives me nightmares and that is The Child Catcher.
Now, he scared me as a child, simply because, well, he’s a Child Catcher. His only job is to go out and catch any children in a town where children are illegal. But, as an adult, I still find him terrifying and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Honestly, I think it all comes down to the way he composes himself. It comes down to the way he dresses, and talks, and moves. He’s just completely creepy. The actor who played him, Robert Helpmann, was a dancer. He also had dentures that he wore. So, for this role, he removed those top dentures in order to really point his face and talk with a hiss. And, being a dancer, he moves so fluidly. The music, although it sounds happy and cheerful, when put with The Child Catcher, makes everything terrifying. Everything. Juxtaposition, man. I would also like to note that I, in no way, feel bad for Caractacus’ children when they get caught by said Child Catcher. And that is simply because they were told to not go outside, stay in the basement. But, here comes a stranger giving away candy for free, and all bets are off. They did this to themselves.
The costume department did a fabulous job. The costumes for Baron Bomburst and The Baroness, as well as all of their party guests are phenomenal. All of the costumes are so detailed. The set design is crazy detailed as well. It’s all stunning.
To end this, I’m going to include some excerpts from the notes that I took during the film. Because my brain has stopped working and I can’t figure out how to work them into this post, but I want to share them with you all. Here we go:
- The guy buying the car actually threatens to murder the children. Cool.
- Dick Van Dyke looks attractive as hell in this film, if I’m being honest.
- Dick Van Dyke playing a single father of two is ADORABLE.
- Dick Van Dyke is definitely a triple threat.
- Like, all these other guys at the carnival have rehearsed this number. They know this man taking center stage is not part of them. Why do they let him steal the show?
- I can’t help but think of the Family Guy episode where they do this song but instead of “Me Ol’ Bamboo” it’s “A Bag of Weed”.
- This film does a great job at showcasing the English countryside.
- I’ve been to that castle!
- THE CHILD CATCHER IS ONE OF THE SCARIEST CHARACTERS TO EVER GRACE THE MOVIES, I SWEAR.
- Every time Benny Hill is on the screen, all I hear in my head is his theme song.
- “The Baroness hates children” “But, who could hate children.” *raises hand*
- “I don’t trust a man who makes toys in a land where children are forbidden.” I mean, that’s fair.
- “What kind of a country is this, with no children?” The country of my dreams, that’s what.
- The Child Catcher is literally the most terrifying character ever. The way he skips and speaks. Sweet jesus.
- Also, he has such an easy job to catch these children. He literally just lures them with candy and the kids disregard everything that Truly has told them about staying hidden. All because there was free candy. Kids are idiots.
- I find The Baroness much more entertaining now, as an adult, than I did as a child.
- But why haven’t the children ever organized and stormed the castle before!? There’s so many of them, they would 100% win.
- I’m impressed that Sally Ann Howes can keep her foot flexed like that for so long. Also, the entire doll dance is impressive as fuck.
- The Baroness clearly doesn’t like children because she is married to one.
- Did Grease steal it’s ending from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?